FILMSAUGUST 2015

(Edwards 1963) The Pink Pan­ther
(Cor­man 1959) A Bucket of Blood
(Adams & Nel­son 2013) Alexander’s Lost World: Ep.1 ― Explo­rations of an Ancient Sea
(Adams & Nel­son 2013) Alexander’s Lost World: Ep.2 ― Mother of All Cities
(Adams & Nel­son 2013) Alexander’s Lost World: Ep.3 ― Alexan­dria on the Oxus
(Adams & Nel­son 2013) Alexander’s Lost World: Ep.4 ― City of the Lady Moon
(Adams & Nel­son 2013) Alexander’s Lost World: Ep.5 ― Land of the Golden Fleece
(Adams & Nel­son 2013) Alexander’s Lost World: Ep.6 ― Source of Civil­i­sa­tion
(Payet & Franco 1986) Golden Tem­ple Ama­zons [Les ama­zones du tem­ple d’or]
(Mar­cel 1983) Pris­on­ers of the Lost Uni­verse
(Mesa 1995) Galaxis Read more »

First-time listening for August 2015

27027. (Philopoc­tus de Caserta) En remi­rant vo douce pour­trai­ture
27028. (Henri Dutilleux) Tim­bres, espaces, mou­ve­ment, ou ‘La nuit étoilée’ Part 1
27029. (Iron But­ter­fly) Heavy
27030. (Adam & the Ants) “Deutscher Girls” [from Derek Jarman’s Jubilee sound­track]
27031. (Géry de Ghersem) Missa Ave Virgo Sanc­tis­sima
27032. (Duke Elling­ton) Buf­fet Flat
27033. (Kam­barkan Folk Ensem­ble) “Jolughabuz az kündö [We Will Meet Soon]”
27034. (Antje Duvekot) New Siberia
27035. (Adam and the Ants) Live at the Round­house, 1978
27036. (Toumani Dia­baté & Bal­laké Sis­soko) New Ancient Strings
27037. (Anni­bale Padovano) Messe à 24 voix
27038. (Plat­ters) Four Plat­ters and One Lovely, Vol.8
27039. (Jacobus Gal­lus Cornio­lus) Missa Super Sancta Maria

READINGAUGUST 2015

26168. (Cather­ine Free­man & Deb­o­rah Mail­man) Going Bush — Adven­tures Across
. . . . . Indige­nous Aus­tralia
26169. (Aditya Adhikari & Bhaskar Gau­tam) Impunity and Polit­i­cal Account­abil­ity in Nepal
26170. (Mario Alinei) The Celtic Ori­gin of Lat. rota and Its Impli­ca­tions for the Pre­his­tory of
. . . . . Europe [arti­cle]
26171. (Mar­tin Gilens) Test­ing The­o­ries of Amer­i­can Pol­i­tics: Elites, Inter­est Groups, and
. . . . . Aver­age Cit­i­zens [arti­cle]
26173. (Joseph Csic­sila) John S. Tuckey’s Mark Twain and Lit­tle Satan [arti­cle]
26174. (John Sut­ton Tuckey) Mark Twain and Lit­tle Satan: The Writ­ing of The Mys­te­ri­ous
. . . . . Stranger
26175. (Li Liu) The Chi­nese Neolithic — Tra­jec­to­ries to Early States
26176. (Sheri­dan Le Fanu) The Mur­dered Cousin [story]
26177. (Bar­bara Yorke) Kings and King­doms of Early Anglo-Saxon Eng­land Read more »

Twain’s Mysterious Stranger

15-08-08 READING Mysterious Stranger coverSome famous books are obvi­ous mas­ter­pieces, most have a mix­ture of mer­its and flaws, but a few are just plain weird. In the last cat­e­gory, few would hes­i­tate to place Mark Twain’s Mys­te­ri­ous Stranger. Even attempt­ing to find and read a copy can be a con­fus­ing task. Twain’s last novel existed in a num­ber of frag­men­tary, unfin­ished ver­sions, writ­ten in between 1897 and 1908. None were pub­lished in his life­time. His lit­er­ary execu­tor, Albert Bigelow Paine, and Fred­er­ick Duneka, an edi­tor at Harper & Broth­ers, cob­bled together a ver­sion and pub­lished it in 1916. This is the ver­sion that became known to the pub­lic. I have just reread this 1916 ver­sion in its orig­i­nal edi­tion, The Mys­te­ri­ous Stranger — A Romance by Mark Twain with Illus­tra­tions by N.C.Wyeth [shown at left]. Wyeth’s illus­tra­tions add greatly to the plea­sure. He was one of the great­est of book illus­tra­tors in a period that boasted Kay Niel­son, Howard Pyle, Akseli Gallen-Kallela, Edmund Dulac and Arthur Rack­ham. How­ever, this edi­tion took extra­or­di­nary lib­er­ties with Twain’s work, a fact which was not made plain until 1963, when John S. Tucker pub­lished Mark Twain and Lit­tle Satan: The Writ­ing of The Mys­te­ri­ous Stranger. Twain had first attempted the story in 1897, leav­ing an unti­tled frag­ment [now called the St. Peters­burg Frag­ment]. Between 1897 and 1900, Twain pro­duced a more sub­stan­tial man­u­script which he called The Chron­i­cle of Young Satan. In 1898, he pro­duced a short and much very dif­fer­ent text which he called School­house Hill, incor­po­rat­ing ele­ments from the first two. Finally, between 1902 and 1908, Twain pro­duced an almost com­plete ver­sion which he titled No. 44, the Mys­te­ri­ous Stranger: Being an Ancient Tale Found in a Jug and Freely Trans­lated from the Jug. Tucker’s schol­ar­ship revealed that Paine and Duneka had relied pri­mar­ily on the ear­lier Chron­i­cle of Young Satan, had removed sub­stan­tial por­tions, changed names, char­ac­ters, added bits writ­ten by them­selves, and pasted the last chap­ter of Twain’s final ver­sion onto the pas­tiche. None of these extreme alter­ations was acknowl­edged, an act of lit­er­ary van­dal­ism and fraud that went uncor­rected until the Uni­ver­sity of Cal­i­for­nia Press pub­lished three of the orig­i­nal man­u­scripts in 1969. No.44, the Mys­te­ri­ous Stranger, Twain’s final ver­sion, did not see pop­u­lar pub­li­ca­tion until 1982, and I have finally read this author­i­ta­tive text. 15-08-08 READING Wyeth illo 1

It reveals a work even more pecu­liar than the 1916 ver­sion. The story is set in the year 1490, in a fic­tional Aus­trian vil­lage. The nar­ra­tor is a sixteen-year-old vil­lage boy named August Feld­ner, an appren­tice in a print-shop. Twain, who was him­self a printer’s appren­tice in Han­ni­bal, Mis­souri when he was a boy, fills the nar­ra­tive with the arcana of the print­ing trade. The print shop’s mas­ter is a sym­pa­thetic char­ac­ter, but there are sev­eral vil­lains: the master’s shrewish and schem­ing wife, a fraud­u­lent magician-alchemist, and a per­se­cut­ing priest. The appren­tices, among whom August counts for lit­tle, are a mixed bag of char­ac­ters, but all are obsessed with the perquisites and peck­ing order of the trade. Twain takes every occa­sion to demon­strate the super­sti­tious and cred­u­lous men­tal­ity of the time, using his well-honed satir­i­cal style. But he also evokes the inno­cence of child­hood and the hum­ble plea­sures or vil­lage life. Twain began writ­ing this ver­sion while he was stay­ing in a small Swiss vil­lage, which he likened to Han­ni­bal in his diary. Into this fic­tional com­mu­nity there sud­denly arrives a mys­te­ri­ous stranger, a boy appar­ently of August’s age, bedrag­gled, seek­ing food and shel­ter, for which he offers to work. When asked his name, he gives it as “Num­ber 44, New Series 864,962.” Twain dwells on the boy’s bewitch­ing beauty. Befriend­ing August, and tak­ing him into his con­fi­dence, he reveals him­self as an “angel”, in fact a rel­a­tive of Satan him­self (Satan, of course, being the rebel angel), and exist­ing out­side of space and time. He com­mu­ni­cates tele­phath­i­cally with August, teaches him how to make him­self invis­i­ble, brings him arti­cles from the future, and whisks him to moun­tain tops and China in an instant. They travel to the past. He also shows August humanity’s hor­rors, includ­ing the burn­ing alive of a “witch”, the tragic lives of the poor, and the grim results of alter­nate time-lines of his­tory. He seems utterly obliv­i­ous to August’s notions of pro­pri­ety, piety, and ethics. When No.44’s dili­gence earns him a posi­tion as appren­tice, the other appren­tices go on strike in resent­ment, sab­o­tag­ing an urgent print­ing job. No.44 con­jures up an army of dopple­gangers who do the work, and there is a comic bat­tle in which each char­ac­ter fights his own dupli­cate. Finally, No.44 is burnt as a witch, only to reap­pear to August and explain to him that:

Noth­ing exists; all is a dream. God — man — the world, — the sun, the moon, the wilder­ness of stars: a dream, all a dream, they have no exis­tence. Noth­ing exists save empty space — and you!”… “And you are not you — you have no body, no blood, no bones, you are but a thought. I myself have no exis­tence, I am but a dream — your dream, crea­ture of your imag­i­na­tion. In a moment you will have real­ized this, then you will ban­ish me from your visions and I shall dis­solve into the noth­ing­ness out of which you made me….

15-08-08 READING Wyeth illo 3
He explains that human ideas are self-evidently absurd, such as a belief in “a God who could make good chil­dren as eas­ily as bad, yet pre­ferred to make bad ones; who could have made every one of them happy, yet never made a sin­gle happy one; who made them prize their bit­ter life, yet stingily cut it short; who gave his angels pain­less lives, yet cursed his other chil­dren with bit­ing mis­eries and mal­adies of mind and body; who mouths jus­tice, and invented hell; who mouths morals to other peo­ple, and has none him­self; who frowns upon crimes, yet com­mits them all; who cre­ates man with­out invi­ta­tion, then tries to shuf­fle the respon­si­bil­ity for man’s acts upon man, instead of hon­or­ably plac­ing it where it belongs, upon him­self; and finally, with alto­gether divine obtuse­ness, invites this poor abused slave to wor­ship him!…

15-08-08 READING Wyeth illo 2It’s no won­der that Twain con­sid­ered the book unpub­lish­able. And it’s not sur­pris­ing that it was writ­ten in the shadow of tragedy. Of the three daugh­ters that Twain doted on, one died of menin­gi­tis in 1896, at the age of twenty-four, another drowned in a bath­tub in 1909. Ear­lier, his only son had died of dipthe­ria when but a tod­dler. Olivia, his wife of thirty-four years, to whom he was utterly devoted, died after a pro­tracted ill­ness while they were in Italy. Twain had plenty of rea­son to be bit­ter. This strange novel embod­ies, in one way or another, all of his life-long obses­sions, from his fas­ci­na­tion with child­hood, and with the Mid­dle Ages, to his par­ing of dual char­ac­ters, one “nor­mal” and the other a kind of pagan spirit — Tom and Huck mutated into August and #44. His hatred of injus­tice and reli­gious hypocrisy are in there in spades. But most of all, the novel dwells on the puz­zle of suf­fer­ing and the multi-faceted nature of con­scious­ness. All Twain’s doubts and tor­ments are resolved in a bizarre kind of meta­phys­i­cal solip­sism. I don’t think, how­ever, that this should be taken as a dec­la­ra­tion of Twain’s actual belief. Twain was a Menip­pean writer, given to play­ing out con­tra­dic­tory schemata of the world in the form of satires, melo­dra­mas and bur­lesques. But there is no doubt about his using this instru­ment to deal with per­sonal anguish.

In the same year that the recov­ered text reached gen­eral pub­li­ca­tion, a small film pro­duc­tion com­pany made a rea­son­ably faith­ful cin­e­matic ver­sion of the story. This is one of the odd­est “fam­ily films” (for it was mar­keted as such) ever made. No.44’s final speech, blas­phe­mous by any Chris­t­ian stan­dards, is in the film, which would nowa­days make it non grata in the U.S., even though it prob­a­bly voices the dis­en­chant­ment of many mod­ern Amer­i­cans. It was filmed in Aus­tria. Pro­duc­tion val­ues were low-end, but ade­quate. August was played by Chris Make­peace, a Cana­dian child actor who had briefly been suc­cess­ful in the com­edy Meat­balls. No.44 was played by Lance Ker­win, a hard-working juve­nile tele­vi­sion actor. The cast­ing was per­fect. Makepeace’s naïve per­sona and Kerwin’s mis­chie­vous one fit the story well. Iron­i­cally, Ker­win later became a drug addict, then found reli­gion.

26166. [2] (Mark Twain) The Mys­te­ri­ous Stranger [ill. N.C. Wyeth] [1916 Harper Edi­tion]
[not same as Esel­dorf ver­sion [Diary of Young Satan] at 22281 or No.44 ver­sion]
26167. (Mark Twain) No.44, the Mys­te­ri­ous Stranger [Mark Twain Project text]
26173. (Joseph Csic­sila) John S. Tuckey’s Mark Twain and Lit­tle Satan [arti­cle]
26174. (John Sut­ton Tuckey) Mark Twain and Lit­tle Satan: The Writ­ing of The Mys­te­ri­ous Stranger

FILMSJULY 2015

(Nasr 2005) Shad­ows in the Dark: The Val Lew­ton Legacy
(Tourneur 1942) Cat Peo­ple
(Rush­ton 2013) Time Team: Ep.259 ― The For­got­ten Gun­ners of WWI
(Moore 1963) Perry Mason: Ep.191 ― The Case of the Devi­ous Delin­quent
(Buchanan 1966) Curse Of The Swamp Crea­ture
(Leder 1998) Deep Impact
(Rush­ton 2013) Time Team: Ep.260 ― Bran­caster, Nor­folk — Bran­caster
*(Trevor­row 2015) Juras­sic World
(All­ward 2013) Time Team: Ep.261 ― Ely, Cardiff — A Cap­i­tal Hill
(Rae 1978) Laserblast Read more »

First-time listening for July 2015

27004. Did­jeri­doo: Musique aborigène d’Australie
27005. (Off­spring) The Off­spring
27006. (Kas­sia) Dox­a­zomen sou Christe
27007. (Kas­sia) Ek rizis agathis
27008. (Kas­sia) O syna­po­s­ta­tis tyran­nos
27009. (Kas­sia) O Phar­iseos
27010. (Kas­sia) O Vasilevs tis doxis Chris­tos
27011. (Kas­sia) I Edessa
27012. (Kas­sia) Tin pen­ta­chor­don lyran
27013. (Kas­sia) Igapisas theophore
27014. (Kas­sia) Yper ton Elli­non
27015. (Kas­sia) I en polles amar­ties
27016. (Kas­sia) Pela­gia
27017. (Kas­sia) Tou stavrou sou I dynamis
27018. (Kas­sia) Olvon lipousa patrikon
27019. (Kas­sia) Petron ke Pavlon
27020. (Kas­sia) Isaïou nyn tou prophi­tou
27021. (Kas­sia) I ton lip­sanon sou thiki
27022. (Kas­sia) Avgous­tou monar­chisan­tos
27023. (Kas­sia) Christina mar­tys
27024. (Fela Kuti) Koola Lobitos: The ’69 L.A. Ses­sions
27025. (Suede) Dog Man Star
27026. (Vic­tor Uwaifo) Guitar-Boy Super­star 1970–76

READINGJULY 2015

26118. (James Wood­ford) The Wollemi Pine
26119. (Louis-Hippolyte LaFontaine) De l’esclavage en Canada
26120. (Bev­er­ley Bois­sery) A Deep Sense of Wrong — The Trea­son, Tri­als, and Trans­porta­tion
. . . . to New South Wales of Lower Cana­dian Rebels after the 1838 Rebel­lion
26121. (Louis-Hippolyte LaFontaine) Deux giri­ou­ettes, ou l’hypocrisie démasquée
26122. (R. J. Van der Spek) Berossus as a Baby­lon­ian Chron­i­cler and Greek His­to­rian [arti­cle]
26123. (Patti Miller) The Mind of a Thief
26124. (David Stu­art Davies) The Rid­dle of the Vis­it­ing Angel [story]
26125. (Cas­san­dra Pybus) Epic Jour­neys of Free­dom — Run­away Slaves of the Amer­i­can
. . . . Rev­o­lu­tion and Their Global Quest for Lib­erty
26126. (Steve Hewitt) Mor­pho­log­i­cal and Syn­tac­tic Dialect Vari­a­tion in Bre­ton [arti­cle]
26127. (Siân Rees) The Float­ing Brothel — The Extra­or­di­nary True Sto­ryof an Eigh­teenth–
. . . . cen­tury Ship and Its Cargo of Female Con­victs
26128. (Steve Hewitt) Back­ground Infor­ma­tion on Bre­ton [arti­cle]
26129. (Rickie Lette) The His­tory of a Nine­teenth Cen­tury Sofa: Leisure, Com­fort, Colo­nial­ism
. . . . and Trade [arti­cle]
26130. (Stephen Lea­cock) Bald­win, LaFontaine, Hincks: Respon­si­ble Gov­ern­ment
Read more »

Friday, July 24 2015 — My Neighbourhood in 1968

Here are four pho­tos taken in my neigh­bour­hood in Toronto, in the 1960s. The three pho­tos of kids are all from 1968. The pic­ture of Sher­bourne sub­way sta­tion is from a few years ear­lier — the women still have the bizarre bouf­fant hair­dos of the early six­ties, and the men are still wear­ing hats. Notice the pious, rev­er­ent, obe­di­ent man­ners of the kids (*NOT*).

15-07-24 BLOG Toronto1968-1

Read more »

FILMSJUNE 2015

(Hoar 2013) Shet­land: Ep.1 ― Red Bones, Part 1
(Hoar 2013) Shet­land: Ep.2 ― Red Bones, Part 2
(Palmer 2009) Agatha Christie’s Marple: Ep.13 ― A Pock­et­ful Of Rye
(Marks 1963) Perry Mason: Ep.182 ― The Case of the Neb­u­lous Nephew
(McNaughton 1969) Monty Python’s Fly­ing Cir­cus: Ep.10 ― Unti­tled
(Bruce 1984) The Adven­tures of Sher­lock Holmes: Ep.2 ― The Danc­ing Men
(Marks 1963) Perry Mason: Ep.183 ― The Case of the Shifty Shoe­box
(Hibbs 1963) Perry Mason: Ep.184 ― The Case of the Drowsy Mos­quito
(Hibbs 1963) Perry Mason: Ep.185 ― The Case of the Deadly Ver­dict
(Lynch 1984) Dune [Riff­Trax ver­sion] Read more »

First-time listening for June 2015

26985. (Henk Bad­ings) Sym­phony #3
26986. (Wu-Tang Clan) Enter the Wu-Tang
26987. (Real Estate) Days
26988. (Tarun Bhat­tacharya) Hyp­notic San­toor
26989. (Miley Cyrus) Bangerz
26990. (Dinah Wash­ing­ton) Dinah Wash­ing­ton [Verve Jazz Mas­ters #19]
26991. (Louis Arm­strong) “West End Blues”
26992. (Paul White­man & George Gersh­win) “Rhap­sody in Blue” [short ver­sion]
26993. (Fats Waller) “Ain’t Mis­be­havin’” Read more »